September 20, 2019 Richard Rezler
Washtenaw Community College is one of the first five institutions nationwide to join the TurboVote Engaged Community College (TECC) program, which supports voter engagement planning aimed at increasing student voter turnout.
Democracy Works, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the voting experience for voters and election officials, launched the TECC program as an affiliate to its TurboVote campus partnership program.
The organization announced earlier this week that WCC is one of the first five campuses to sign on, joining Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana; Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon; Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; and Napa Valley College in Napa, California.
WCC’s involvement with TurboVote began in 2018 when Paralegal Studies/Pre-Law student Matea Pejic became a democracy fellow for the Campus Vote Project.
“TurboVote is a natural fit for the community college mission of inclusion and comprehensive community support. The web, mobile, and text-based tools empower students to access the democratic process in a safe and familiar environment,” WCC Director of Student Development and Activities Peter Leskevich told Democracy Works. “As educators, we are able to focus on teaching civic engagement while TurboVote works hard behind the scenes to provide accurate and timely information regarding important community elections. For community colleges, TurboVote makes voter registration and engagement easy!”
A Democracy Works blog post explained the impetus for the TECC program:
"If the numbers alone don’t speak to the importance of engaging community colleges in our aim to help every student vote, the people do. From recent high school grads to full-time workers taking night classes, to retirees learning new disciplines, community colleges serve students at all stages of life and from diverse backgrounds. These voices are absolutely essential in a representative democracy. Plus, with part-time programs often spanning multiple years, these students are members of their communities for longer periods, likely with greater investment in the political outcomes of where they call home. Increasing voter engagement can be a pathway to increasing overall participation in the local community where they learn and grow.
"Community college students are often working part-time or full-time, supporting or raising families, and balancing all types of responsibilities. By making major contributions to society and simultaneously getting an education, community college students represent a vital part of our democracy while also being some of the busiest people. For these reasons, we believe TurboVote can make a meaningful difference in helping them participate in all of their elections.
Democracy Works develops tools for voters, gathers data for elections and builds technology for election officials. It received a $3 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation earlier this month.